Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin make plans to meet face to face and agree to greater cooperation in Syria
A combination of file photos showing Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, January 15, 2016 and U.S. President Donald Trump posing for a photo in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2016.
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have agreed to a face-to- face meeting and to work together to try to strengthen a shaky ceasefire in Syria, in their first call since the US airstrike on a Syrian government airbase.
The US military action sparked new tensions between Washington and Moscow, with top American officials sharply condemning Mr Putin’s continued support for embattled Syrian leader.
But the two leaders appeared to again be edging toward closer cooperation on Tuesday, speaking in favour of organizing meeting around the time of the G20 summit in Hamburg in July.
The Kremlin said Mr Trump and Mr Putin had also agreed to bolster diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions more displaced.
The White House announced it would send a top State Department official to Russian-led talks on Syria that begin Wednesday in Kazakhstan.
"President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence," the White House said.
"The conversation was a very good one, and included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons."
The Kremlin called the talks between the Russian and US leaders, "business-like and constructive" but made no mention of safe zones.
Undated handout photo issued by the US Navy of USS Porter (DDG 78) firing a tomahawk land attack missile from the Mediterranean Sea, as Britain backed the US missile strike on a Syrian air base as an "appropriate response" to Bashar Assad regime’s "barbaric" chemical attack. Credit: Seaman Ford Williams/US Navy/PA
Despite having previously warned against US intervention in Syria,Mr Trump ordered the strikes against Syrian government targets in early April after accusing the regime of using chemical weapons in a deadly attack on civilians. Russia said the US strikes violated international law.
Some of Mr Trump’s top advisers, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, leveled blistering criticism against Russia and Mr Putin following the chemical weapons attack that killed scores of people, including women and children.
Yet Mr Trump has continued to hold out the prospect of a stronger relationship with Russia, which was a cornerstone of his foreign policy platform as a presidential candidate.
He took to Twitter days after the Syria strikes to say that "things will work out fine" between the US and Russia and "everyone will come to their senses."
The shifts in the Trump administration’s posture came amid a steady swirl of controversy surrounding possible ties between the president’s associates and Russia during last year’s election. The FBI and congressional committees are investigating whether Mr Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia as it meddled in the election.
Mr Putin, who met earlier Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, denied that Moscow ever interferes in other countries’ elections.
He said accusations of Russian meddling aimed at helping Mr Trump in his race against Mrs Clinton were "simply rumors" being used as part of a political fight in Washington.
Trump has vigorously denied any nefarious ties to Moscow, calling the Russian investigations a "hoax."
Tuesday’s call marked the third time Mr Trump and Mr Putin are known to have talked since the U.S. president took office in January.